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Vitamin C for cancer: An “A” for C

Vitamin C is potent adjunct cancer treatment that can target and kill cancer stem cells, and more.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death and disease worldwide, accounting for almost 9 million deaths in 2015, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the United States, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimate that almost 40 percent of U.S. men and women will have developed cancer at one point during their lives.

There are various treatment options available for cancer, like chemotherapy but they are not always effective; most of them are toxic. Furthermore, cancer is immune dysfunction whereas chemotherapy is immune suppression.

How Vitamin C Kills Cancer Cells

In order for vitamin C to effectively kill cancer cells, you need to have a very high concentration of vitamin C in your blood, and the only way to obtain these extreme levels is through IV administration, By bypassing the digestive tract, IV administration results in blood levels up to 33 times higher than what you can achieve through the oral route.

The mechanism behind vitamin C’s ability to selectively target cancer cells has to do with the generation of hydrogen peroxide, which is ultimately what kills the cancer cells. As reported by the University of Iowa:

“In a new study, Buettner and his colleagues have homed in on the biological details of how high-dose vitamin C kills cancer cells. The study shows that vitamin C breaks down easily, generating hydrogen peroxide, a so-called reactive oxygen species that can damage tissue and DNA.

The study also shows that tumor cells are much less capable of removing the damaging hydrogen peroxide than normal cells …

‘Thus, cancer cells are much more prone to damage and death from a high amount of hydrogen peroxide,’ says Buettner, a professor of radiation oncology and a member of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa. This explains how the very, very high levels of vitamin C used in our clinical trials do not affect normal tissue, but can be damaging to tumor tissue.’”

The reason normal tissues are not harmed by the high levels of hydrogen peroxide generated is that healthy cells have several ways of effectively removing it, thereby preventing buildup to toxic levels.

One of the primary pathways of removal is the enzyme catalase, and the study found that cells with reduced catalase activity were indeed more prone to die when exposed to high amounts of vitamin C.

This provides a hint at which cancers are likely the best candidates for high-dose vitamin C therapy — tumors with low catalase levels are likely to be the most responsive, whereas tumors with high catalase levels would be the least responsive.

More and more research examines the impact of the natural vitamin C on cancer cell growth.

In a recent study, vitamin C proves effective in killing cancer stem-like cells.

In some more aggressive cases, the cancer does not respond to treatment, and it is believed that cancer stem-like cells are the reason why the cancer comes back and metastasizes.

New research, published in the journal Oncotarget, examines the effectiveness of three natural substances, three experimental drugs, and one clinical drug in stopping the growth of these cancer stem cells (CSCs.)

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Salford in Manchester in the United Kingdom, and was led by Dr. Gloria Bonuccelli.

Vitamin C up to 10 times more effective than experimental drugs

In total, the researchers measured the impact of seven substances: the clinical drug stiripentol, three experimental drugs (actinonin, FK866, and 2-DG), and three natural substances (caffeic acid phenyl ester (CAPE), silibinin, and ascorbic acid (vitamin C).)

The research focused on the bioenergetic processes of CSCs, which enable the cells to live and multiply. The study aimed to disrupt the CSCs’ metabolism and ultimately prevent their growth.

Of all the substances tested, the team found that actinonin and FK866 were the most effective. However, the natural products were also found to prevent the formation of CSCs, and vitamin C was 10 times more effective than the experimental drug 2-DG.

Additionally, the study revealed that ascorbic acid works by inhibiting glycolysis – the process by which glucose is broken down within the cell’s mitochondria and turned into energy for the cell’s proliferation.

Dr. Michael P. Lisanti, professor of translational medicine at the University of Salford, comments on the findings:

“We have been looking at how to target cancer stem cells with a range of natural substances including silibinin (milk thistle) and CAPE, a honey-bee derivative, but by far the most exciting are the results with vitamin C. Vitamin C is cheap, natural, nontoxic and readily available so to have it as a potential weapon in the fight against cancer would be a significant step.”

“This is further evidence that vitamin C and other nontoxic compounds may have a role to play in the fight against cancer,” says the study’s lead author.

“Our results indicate it is a promising agent for clinical trials, and as an add-on to more conventional therapies, to prevent tumor recurrence, further disease progression, and metastasis,” Bonuccelli adds.

Vitamin C has been shown to be a potent, nontoxic, anticancer agent by Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling. However, to the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study providing evidence that ascorbic acid can specifically target and neutralize CSCs.

Vitamin C Lowers Inflammation in Cancer Patients

Another way vitamin C benefits cancer is by lowering inflammation. As a general rule, chronic inflammation is a hallmark of cancer, and here they found that IV vitamin C treatment helps lower pro-inflammatory cytokines and C-reactive protein — two inflammatory markers — and that these improvements correlate with a reduction in tumor size.

It also helps lower the risk of metastasis. A positive response was noted in 75 percent of patients. This study was done by scientist at the Riordan Clinic, which is the successor to Linus Pauling and his work on vitamin C. Riordan carried out a 15-year-long research project called RECNAC (cancer spelled backwards), which showed vitamin C was selectively cytotoxic against cancer cells.

Other research done by scientists at the Lewis Cantley of Weill Cornel Medicine in New York found high doses of vitamin C helps kill and eliminate colorectal cancer cells with certain genetic mutations. Other studies have shown high-dose vitamin C can help slow the growth of prostate-, pancreatic-, liver- and colon cancer cells.

Vitamin C Dosage for cancer

Dr. Ronald Hunninghake — chief medical officer at the Riordan Clinic who has supervised 60,000 IV administrations of vitamin C — discusses the use of vitamin C for health and cancer protocols in the featured video. Research by the Riordan Clinic suggests you need a vitamin C blood level of more than 1000 mg/dl to achieve selective cytotoxicity against cancer cells. This level is not achievable with maximum tolerable oral dose.

Note: Following so many case reports on the benefit of intravenous Vitamin C, FDA approved for cancer research in 2006.